Hot Days, Water Requirements and Sheep Growth

February 26, 2024

Understanding the vital role water plays in keeping livestock healthy is crucial. For sheep, their water needs depend on various factors like weather, shearing, water quality, availability, and what they eat. On average, they drink 3-5 litres a day but, in hot weather, this can triple, especially for larger or older sheep. It's important to manage water resources wisely to ensure the best care.

The example below is the required average water for livestock:

During the winter months, sheep tend to absorb more water from the pastures they graze on. Consequently, a mature sheep may require less than 4 litres of water per day during this season. However, in the summer, as previously mentioned, their water intake can surge to as high as 14 litres per day. Therefore, ensuring a consistent supply of high-quality water is crucial for maintaining the health and condition of the livestock, minimising the risk of disease, and alleviating stress.

To get the best out of your livestock, it is important to have quality water available:

1.      Fresh

2.      Cool

3.      Clean

4.      Low in sodium

5.      Low in organic matter (yabbies and marron can help with this)

6.      Free of blue-green algae and chemical residues

7.      It may help to test the water

Recent droughts and hot summers have shown livestock avoid or reduce intake when the water is:

  1. Warm
  2. Stagnant
  3. Contaminated by organic matter such as straw

When it comes to troughs, whether they're in a paddock or containment area, it's advisable to clean them at least every other day as a minimum requirement. Water will directly impact the productivity and profitability of a flock and, in a year where sheep prices are where they are, every improvement pays for itself. Sheep, like all animals, need water for basic hydration. Water is essential for maintaining the balance of bodily fluids, supporting digestion, and facilitating nutrient absorption. Sheep need water for thermoregulation, especially during hot weather. Water helps them cool down through sweating and panting, preventing heat stress that could negatively impact growth.

This summer has been recorded as one of the hottest in recent years, with temperatures soaring to a high of 45 degrees Celsius.

During this time, it’s important for farmers to consistently offer clean and readily accessible water to their sheep, ensuring that the water source meets their specific needs. This will optimise sheep growth and the well-being of your animals.

Sources and further reading:

Australian and New Zealand Environment and Conservation Council, 2000, Australian and New Zealand Guidelines for fresh and marine water quality.